Last week, Wikispaces announced its decision to shut down, along with its “Wikispaces Classroom” and “Free Wikis” tiers. According to the the announcement, these components did not provide enough revenue and did not make sense as a marketing or adoption tool. Wikispaces Classroom users will be able to download their content until July 31, 2018. The final end of service date is January 31, 2019.
The open source cemetery is full of potentially (or sometimes just aspirationally) world-changing ideas. While the ideas sense in principle, they failed to live up to their own vision, sometimes even after having received praise, quick adoption rates, and positive media coverage. How safe is Moodle from a similar fate? Here are some of the reasons Wikispaces folded:
Failure to keep up technologically: As it stands today, the team considers the investment to upgrade the infrastructure required to bring Wikispaces “in line with modern standards” prohibitive and no longer valuable. This is arguably due to a lack of technological due diligence, and possibly due to talent management as well.
Failure to keep up with the competition: Not only did the technology become obsolete, it did so while the competition remained sharp. More Wiki services expanded in recent years, figuring out better monetization models. In fairness, some of them might have benefited from higher levels of working capital before breaking even.
Failure to appropriately leverage a Fremium model: Just like many other open source technologies that are no longer with us, many apps and startups fade out of existence because they think giving part or all of their business away for free will do. As we have stressed previously, EdTech companies should take the decision to give something away as seriously as the decision to charge.
Failure to provide even the most basic level of user-based support: There is a general awareness that free-licensed products tend to be rough around the edges, which is why community-building becomes a critical, cost-effective way to provide support and troubleshoot issues. It seems Wikispaces could have done more in encouraging its users to connect, collaborate, support, and be supported by each other.
Failure to broaden beyond the original scope: Single-feature companies have few survival roads ahead, especially when they are not blessed with viral adoption rates. They are usually bought, have expanded their offering, or at least pivoted in order to stay in business. This is for many reasons, some of them related to the aforementioned failures, but neither was the case here. Interestingly enough, one of Wikispaces official recommendations for a replacement is amply featured Moodle.